The ghost of Brendan Nelson will haunt Turnbull
UPDATED 6:20 PM Following valedictory speech:
A dignified and teary eyed Brendan Nelson bid farewell to Parliament today, but as it’s also the anniversary of the end of his leaderhsip his ghost will be determined to haunt Malcolm Turnbull for quite a while yet.
Like Jacob Marley to Ebenezer Scrooge, tonight the ghost of Brendan Nelson will wake Malcolm Turnbull rustling pages of a complex ETS policy that he has been tasked with finding appropriate amendments on for eternity.
At the end of the apparition Nelson tosses the bundles to petrified Turnbull and tells him in a spooky whisper “of course you could do better couldn’t you?” – cue a screaming Turnbull who wakes up with a pile of ETS legislation at the end of his bed.
Few would have thought it possible, but Nelson is leaving a Liberal Party that is arguably in a worse state than when he was booted from the leadership and he must be laughing about it.
Nelson’s decision to leave Parliament early and force a by-election as well as his parting comments on the ETS were a pretty clear message to Malcolm Turnbull.
Tuesday’s disastrous Question Time for the Liberals was preceded by a joint party room meeting in which the Nelson made a plea for his former colleague not to act like “intellectual lemmings” on the issue of the ETS.
It was a cheeky moved that worked to inspire those Liberal MPs who are similarly annoyed with Turnbull’s handling of the issue.
Leadership squabbles and party politics were largely put aside during Nelson’s speech which, must like the man, was geniune and impassioned.
His address began with a story about the endless obession during his life in medicine and politics over his earring, which included being confronted by a group of serious Liberal women in his electorate about his sexual inclinations.
“Dr Nelson we’ll get straight to the point, you have an earring?
“I said yes. She said “we believe you are a homosexual.”
“I can assure you that I am not, at that point the lady banged her fist down and said “yes but can you prove it!”
Thanking his family and colleagues, including Peter Costello and even the Prime Minister, Dr Nelson said that the Liberal Party must: “always place Australia’s interest above what you see as our political interest”.
“Never abandon your ideals . . . never confuse position with power.”
He wished Malcolm Turnbull “every success” but he did repeat his pleas for the Government and the his own party not to adopt an ETS before other larger polluters:
“It defies logic and it also is not in Australia’s best interest,” he told Parliament.
The point is of course that Nelson called a ballot on his leadership after being continually undermined, especially on the issue of the ETS.
Nelson wanted to switch to a position of opposing the Government’s ETS outright until after it was clear what the major emitters were doing.
This was characterised as a policy disaster by Turnbull and his backers and became the catalyst for Nelson’s demise.
Right now Turnbull is the leader of an Opposition that has no real policy on the ETS as it is divided on the whether to support, oppose or amend the Government’s proposed system.
Nelson’s advice may continue to haunt Turnbull as he tries to deal with the issue of the ETS in the Liberal Party, as no doubt will the fate of Nelson himself.
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